that which causes hope

His skin was a color of promise- The color of rich soil, the depthless look of burgeoning dark grapes in the vineyards near his home. He had been sitting quietly in a corner of the drab waiting room marked "NUCLEAR MED" in fading letters. There was a girl with him, and it seemed they had been waiting a long time.

Everyone had been waiting a long time, in that cheerless room. Even those who had just arrived. Piece by piece, conversations floating through the stale air turned into stories. There was the little girl who would later share a room with me as she ate a radioactive breakfast ("Careful not to spill the eggs, dear, or we'll have to call a hazmat team."), having been unable to complete a barium swallow after gagging repeatedly on the dense, sick-sweet liquid. While the conversation wandered and patients were called away, the man and his daughter said nothing. They both dozed intermittently as the clock ticked on.

Not until the room was mostly empty did he speak. His English was good, if heavily accented. He had fled his own (unspecified) African country, hoping to start a family and a better life in America.

His hair was cropped close, and I could see the beginnings of grey. Surely he must be the patient. But his glance strayed continually to his daughter, who was now across the room, wrapped in his coat and trying to sleep. There was a desparate look in his eye, that I came to understand as the wild love of a parent who has no power to save their child. Haltingly, briefly, he told us her story.

She was 15, the oldest of his children, and a freshman in high school. She was very athletic and was eager to join her school's basketball team. The required sports physical seemed a nuisance, and she put it off as long as she could. She felt fine, why did she have to go see a doctor to tell her that? Still, she went, and her physical exam was mostly unremarkable. The doctor did notice a small, irregular lump in the soft flesh near her underarm. Probably nothing, it's just a small lump. We'll biopsy it just to be sure, but it's really not a big deal. Don't worry yourself over it. The doctor signed her exam form, and she was free to go.

The follow-up to her biopsy changed everything. Lymphoma. How could it be? She felt fine, she was 15, and she had cancer. The bleak prognosis reverberated through them, yet they stood fast and resolved to face what lay ahead.

Even having shared his own staggering heartbreak, he clasped my mother's pale hands in his own, seeming to read her anxiety over me. "Your daughter, she will go with God now. I feel it, she is in His hands. He will watch her."

Despite all fear, his words were those of promise.


a fateful trip

I've been a little neglectful of the blog again lately... a lot on my mind, a lot going on, a lot, alot.

For some time I've intended to write an entry about "skittles" or "robotripping" or any of the other names for recreational abuse of dextromethorphan, DXM for short.

Dextromethorphan is a common over-the-counter drug. It's in many cold medications, such as some formulations of Coricidin.. The name "skittles" comes from the Coricidin pills, which do resemble the popular candy. Dextromethorphan is the main ingredient in many cough preparations, like Robitussin CoughGels (which are pure DXM). DXM is used by prescription for a number of reasons, but the OTC market for the drug is huge.
In high doses, DXM is hallucinogenic, with similar effects to LSD. (Hence the term robotripping.)

DXM is the drug of choice for a fairly young demographic. It's popular with junior high kids, and increasingly with some older kids. It's used in lieu of harder drugs for a number of reasons; it's easy to get, easy to use, fairly cheap, legal... It has a false veneer of safety because of its OTC status- Our invincible youth figure, how bad can it be? - It's over-the-counter.

Although DXM itself can be harmful in high doses, often a lot more harm is done when kids use mixed products- Cold medicines often contain other ingredients that kids know nothing about.. Kids take these meds for the DXM, but they're getting other dangerous drugs at the same time.

image from Erowid.org

I had intended to write an entry about the recreational use of dextromethorphan, but there is another significant use for this 'cough' medicine. Aside from the accidental deaths, a growing number of suicides and attempted suicides involve cold medicines containing DXM.

Sunday, the son of a long-time family acquaintance consumed a number of packages of pills, in an attempt to end his life. He has been on a ventilator, in a coma, but is beginning to show some improvement. He is breathing (weakly albeit) on his own, but there's no telling what the future holds for him, or how irreparably damaged he may be.

A sad, desperate 25-yr-old. went tripping toward the edge of life this week. I wonder what he saw.

(And what, or who, was it -there on the brink- that pushed him back toward a life harder still (unimaginably so) than the one he tried to leave behind.)

Dextroverse bills itself as a "DXM community" online. I haven't really delved into it, but it looks pretty comprehensive.
Of course, Erowid is the place to go for drug information.

this was going to be an entry full of interesting links and references and facts.. warnings.. but the universe takes unexpected turns, even in small ways. sorry it's not a better, more 'groomed' post.


smooth language

I was out with my older sister yesterday, and stopped to order a fruit/soy smoothie for me and a boba-soy for her...

The (rude) "Fruitland" employees messed up my sister's drink and very grumpily corrected the problem after a bit of arguing.

About 1/4 of the way through my drink I noticed the sticky on the cup denoting my order... organ pine straw